Jensen Ackles Talks Season Seven at Toronto Con
Creation’s Salute to Supernatural convention came to Toronto for the first time this weekend, which meant a hotel full of con first-timers and palpable excitement, especially when it came time for Misha, Jared or Jensen to take the stage. There’s nothing better than the anticipation of meeting for the first time the people who make the Show you’ve fallen for. We spent part of the weekend just chatting with fans who discovered Supernatural in season six and then mainlined the first five to catch up. The newbie excitement was contagious, filling the auditoriums and spilling over into the hallways. Friday night karaoke saw Amy Gumenick (young Mary) joining fans in dancing on their chairs, Gabe Tigerman and his character-twin Elias doing a heartfelt duet of ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease, and Richard Speight Jr. and Matt Cohen rocking some serious sixties fringe and bellbottoms. Jensen auctioned off enough Winchester rock salt to keep demons away for a decade, and fandom came through with a substantial donation for Hunters Syndrome research. We caught up with fans we met at our first Supernatural fan convention in 2007, had a chance to update Misha, Jared and Jensen on when to expect their copies of Stalking Fandom, and took a few more….creative….photos of the guys for the books.
We also thoroughly enjoyed Jensen’s Q&A, which should come as a surprise to no one.
Jensen joined us with a cup of (apparently quite hot) coffee, asking us if we were awake yet.
Fans: (eyes most definitely open) We are now J
A fan kicked off the Q & A asking if Jensen would take anything from the set of Supernatural when the show is over.
Jensen: I don’t think it will ever be over!
Has he ever taken any ‘keepsakes’ from the various sets he’s worked on?
Jensen (looks shifty): A few things may have found their way to my bag. Bobby’s house got destroyed on Friday night, as you know, and that was our only standing set for the past six seasons. So when we filmed our last scene in there, Jared and I started looking around and taking stuff off the desk, little things that haven’t moved in six seasons and have always been in the background. And there have been some books I’ve taken from the set dec shelves – I like really old books, we have bookshelves in our house and I’ve just got old books there. So I went about it properly and asked if I could have them, there were some from the early 1900s. And the next day there was this big box of books in my trailer.
What about the ultimate prop?
Jensen: As far as the car goes, that’s probably something that’s gonna be a little more difficult — unless I just hop in and drive away. I will try to either sweet talk them or get it into my next contract though.
And that duster from the Western episode?
Jensen (looks shifty again): As far as wardrobe goes, I’m gonna plead the 5th on that. I mean, the duster was custom made for me, Diane our costume designer designed it and our tailors made it for me, so I can’t imagine why it shouldn’t go home with me.
Fans: Of course. Obviously.
Jensen: And over the years, it’s been oh, those jeans went missing, or oh those boots, so….yeah.
Dean’s leather jacket, unfortunately, really was stolen.
Jensen: That’s been one of the biggest mess-ups on our show. And they’ve tried to get others that looked like it and I’ll try them on but it’s like, this is not gonna work.
Apparently Mr. Ackles also has a pickaxe handle from My Bloody Valentine. Must be an interesting conversation piece in the living room….
Since Jensen had just completed his second episode of directing, many of the questions were about that episode. Fans wondered what was most challenging about this one.
Jensen: This was a much more challenging script, lots more going on. Weekend at Bobby’s was a day in the life, and it was a lot of dialogue and some great actors – I could just set the cameras and then let them go. This one was more flipping back and forth, flashbacks, new characters, so technically it was more difficult. I thought it would be easier the second time around, but last year ignorance was bliss. What I learned from last year’s experience made me think more about possibilities and technical aspects and I basically made it harder on myself. There was a lot they did post-production that I wasn’t aware of – I had my cut but then network and studio has it, and they took stuff out and I was like, awww, they took that out? There was a whole montage of me in the cabin with the broken leg just downing beers and swordfighting with my crutch, and they cut that out for time.
Actually Jensen’s complaint about post-production edits made some of the things that bothered us about that episode a bit clearer. Fans felt cheated out of the three weeks during which Dean convalesced, and presumably worked on repressing his grief over the loss of Cas, and came to some decidedly unpopular (for fans at least) decisions about how to deal with it by charging ahead full force keeping the world safe by taking out sympathetic (for fans at least) monsters-of-the-week. They also took out what sounded like some awesome, albeit disgusting, shots.
Jensen: And in the end instead of Chet’s mouth opening up and you see the leviathan, I actually had the cheese poured on the guy’s head. It really sucks because that was my good friend Mike, who runs a bar in downtown Vancouver. He’s been a buddy of mine since Dark Angel, so I called him and said hey listen, it’s three scenes, but there’s a catch. I have to dump nacho cheese on your head. And he was like, well it’s a good thing I don’t have any hair. So he was a full-on trooper and the shot was amazing. It wasn’t actual nacho cheese, Special Effects came up with a vanilla yogurt that they thinned out with water and then they put in food coloring, and it was really good. So when we brought it on set I was like mmm, totally fine.
Jensen (licks his fingers)
Fans (are distracted)
Jensen: And then Mike was like (licks fingers more….) and he was like yeah, that’s pretty good. And it was just pouring down right over his eye and it like separated over his eye and he was screaming bloody murder, and ….they cut that out. But it wasn’t my call to make.
(It was his call to make to have Mike wear a Red Hood tee shirt and have a mention of My Bloody Valentine though, both of which were immediately noticed by our ever-observant fandom).
What was his favorite scene in that episode?
Jensen: My favorite scene, I really liked the kill scene at the end. Because we never do that – the way we kill, it’s quick and violent and bloody boom boom boom slash, and this was just a very subtle motion, and then laying her down, so I really liked that.
Actually we were among the fans who were rather unattractively gaping when we watched that scene. It’s been suggested in comments on the sites of our friends Alice at WFB and Mo Ryan on AOL.TV that the reaction to this scene splits along gender lines – men (Jensen, Jared and Dean included) saw the character as a monster who needed to be killed, women as a mother protecting her child. Jensen’s explanation makes Dean’s headspace a bit easier to understand – Dean, at least, saw it as a mercy killing, set apart from the way the Winchesters usually kill. We still feel jarred, but it’s helpful to have the ‘character’s’ point of view.
The next question was one we’d been wondering about – or at least the one who’s the psychologist.
Lynn: Is it hard to direct and to also be in it a lot as an actor? Because I’m having a hard time getting my head around how you could do that. Do you have to jump back and forth in psychological headspace in order to that?
Jensen: Yes, psychologically it was a nightmare. Because as an actor, and I never realized this until directing this episode, how clear my mind is when I’m acting, and how relaxed my thought process is. I’m not thinking about other things, just relaxing into that character and that scene, listening to the people I’m working with and reacting accordingly. And there’s a certain sense of calm that comes with it. And when I’m working as a director, it’s the complete opposite. In fact at one point I was sitting there and my head was spinning, I was thinking I’ve got this shot and then we’re gonna do a wide shot and then a steadicam shot, and my dolly grip Dave was like, I can hear you thinking, and I was like, don’t talk to me.
This must be one of those times when it’s great to work on a show like Supernatural, where everyone is like family and everyone has your back.
Jensen: I pulled aside Kevin Parks, our first AD – he would call action when I was acting – and I said, it might take me a couple of takes to get there, but keep an eye out and make sure that I’m in it, that I’m back to Dean and not still crazy director Jensen. And so he did, and a couple of times he was like, you’re not there yet and I was like, you’re right. So it would take a few extra takes just to kinda get my brain cleared and relax, so it was a challenge. I have newfound respect for Clint Eastwood.
Fans: Well, you did it well!
Jensen: Thank you. I think it’s something that I assume will get easier with time, the more you do – but going through it the first couple of times was not easy.
Fans: So are you gonna do it next year?
Jensen (laughing) I think so.
Ackles tends to be more critical of his skills than the rest of us – but then again, who doesn’t fall into that trap? When a fan shared that Jewel had raved about his directing, he was characteristically humble.
Jensen: A director’s job is easy with talent like that. I was fortunate to have them. Jewel’s like the zen master, she’s so calm and collected and then you yell ‘action’ and she’s like, Boom! I enjoyed directing kids too. Because with Jewel and Jim and Jared, they understand what to do, but with kids, they’re fresh faced and really wanting direction. So it was fun to work with Emma and Colin, and I thought they did a really good job.
Fan: Colin is getting so much older, it will be hard to do these flashbacks.
Jensen (laughing): Soon they’ll have to switch to the season one Sam!
A fan commented on the sepia tone used for the flashback scenes.
Jensen: I felt it was a little strong. I mean, this is me being critical, but I felt like the treatment was a little harsh, I wanted it more subtle, a little closer to the real so it’s just a very subtle change. I thought it was a bit too dramatic.
Fans: No! We loved it!
Jensen: Oh well, if you didn’t mind it, then okay J
The next question was a stumper – ‘What are five things we don’t know about you?’
Jensen (eyebrows at hairline): FIVE??
Jensen: For some of you who’ve known me for a while, you probably know just about everything I’m willing to tell you.
Both Jensen and Jared take questions from fans quite seriously though, so Jensen was determined to answer.
Jensen: I hate to be late. But I’m rarely punctual.
Jensen (deadpans): So I’m often upset.
He also shared that he has a fair amount of patience, which comes in handy when his wife takes a bit longer to get ready than he does.
Jensen: (still gamely struggling to come up with five bits of new info) So there’s two things right there! What else? Give me a category! Ummmm…. I sleep on the right side of the bed in Vancouver and the left side in LA.
Fans (silently) Wow, and we thought we shouldn’t ask about his sleeping habits….
Eventually a fan took pity on him and said that ‘someone’ wanted to know what aftershave Jensen wears, since at every con, ‘you smell fantastic.’
Jensen (perhaps blushing just a bit): Well, I haven’t actually shaved in about seven years. I just use the clippers, I haven’t straight razored my face since the show started so I don’t use aftershave, but I do use some colognes.
He couldn’t remember the name of any, though he did know that Matthew McConaghey advertised one.
Fan: Do you like the beard more?
Jensen: Yeah, I do, but more importantly, Danneel does. Also it’s a nice change from Dean when I grow the beard out and my hair is a little longer, I look more like Jensen. And I feel like that too. When I look in the mirror like this, I can pop right into Dean. I mean, obviously there’s a separation, but it feels like I’ve stepped away from the role.
Jensen also totally could have used his geek cred as another item on the something we didn’t know question. What cameras are used on Supernatural? Apparently season 1 and 2 used film, then 3 to 6 were on digital HD and something called 21D’s and now it’s all Alexa, which they shot Avatar on. (None of that means anything to us, but we kinda love it when Ackles geeks out….)
A fan commented that she missed Dean’s amulet.
Jensen: I don’t. It was heavy, and every time I’d jump or run or fall — I cannot believe that my teeth still are intact! It hit my teeth so many times, I’d be like (mimes spitting blood). In fact, it did chip this tooth right here. (helpfully demonstrates)
Fans (sheepish): Uhh, okay, now we don’t feel so bad about it being gone.
The amulet might not be returning any time soon, but some things in Season 7 are reminiscent of the first seasons of Supernatural. The new season started off with some incredible episodes, with the brothers growing closer, but not always on the same page. So, does Dean trust Sam?
Jensen: Dean is trusting of Sam. I think that he also understands that Sam is dealing with a very unique situation, so he keeps an eye out, but I think that Dean does think that Sam’s heart is in the right place even though his head is messed up. And this will affect their relationship for a couple episodes, but it will be resolved, and I think Sam understands that it (the last episode’s shocker) was a necessity as opposed to a stab in the back. Dean doesn’t tell Sam right away – he lives with it for a couple episodes. And then…..
SPOILER ALERT HERE
Apparently the leviathans have a plan to expose Sam and Dean, which involves making them America’s Most Wanted. Luckily for Jared and Jensen that means robbing banks and crime sprees and generally having a lot of fun. Luckily for fandom that means evil!Sam and evil!Dean, i.e. lots of hotness.
It also plays into Dean’s attempts to keep secrets from Sam. You know that never goes well, Show!!
Fan: So Sam and Dean have to hole up like rabbits.
Jensen: That’s one of the themes this season – they’re backing us into a corner together and stripping away all their tools, from the lore, because there’s no lore on leviathans, to the car – they’re like listen, everyone knows you’re driving this car, you gotta switch it up. So it’s cool, they’re taking away everything that we’ve depended on. And it’s backing us into a corner together, which means that we have to rely on each other, but in a different way, without the tools, so we’re gonna have to rely on instinct and it’s like, I’m gonna need you to watch my back and I’ll watch yours. It kinda gets back to the original format of the show.
Which is, after all, the Show we fell in love with. We can’t wait!